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New Study On COVID-19 Symptoms Finds Different "Types" Of The Disease

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Dry cough and fever are some of the known signs of the novel coronavirus and, according to a new study on COVID-19 symptoms, there may be six different types of "clusters" to be aware of as the virus continues to spread.

To reach their findings, researchers at the King's College London studied data from approximately 1,600 patients in the United States and the United Kingdom who used an app called the "COVID Symptom Study App" during March and April. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that people who logged their symptoms and had been infected with the novel coronavirus can experience a wide range of symptoms that differ in severity.

Based on this information, as detailed in the study, researchers were able to identify six different "types" or "clusters" of symptoms associated with COVID-19:

  1. "Flu-like" with no fever: Headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever
  2. "Flu-like" with fever: Headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite
  3. Gastrointestinal: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough
  4. Severe Level One, Fatigue: Headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue
  5. Severe Level Two, Confusion: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain
  6. Severe Level Three, Abdominal and Respiratory: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain

It's unclear how skin rashes, another symptom of the virus, map on to these six clusters since it was not recognized as a symptom at the time this research was conducted, according to a news release for the study.

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Researchers concluded that people who experienced Types 4, 5, and 6 tended to be older, more vulnerable, and had preexisting conditions compared to patients who had Type 1, 2, or 3. They were also more likely to need breathing support compared to patients with less severe types of COVID-19.

Considering that there are more than 16 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), this study's sample size of 1,600 is relatively small. Still, Dr. Claire Steves from King’s College London said in the news release that these findings "have important implications for care and monitoring of people who are most vulnerable to severe COVID-19."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms of the coronavirus include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, loss of smell or taste, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. The CDC notes that symptoms may appear two to 14 days after being exposed to the virus and can range from being mild to severe.

Researchers at King's College London are hopeful that this new study will help doctors indicate which patients are more vulnerable and will need more attention. "Our study illustrates the importance of monitoring symptoms over time to make our predictions about individual risk and outcomes more sophisticated and accurate," lead researcher Dr. Carole Sudre said in the study. "This approach is helping us understand the unfolding story of this disease in each patient so they can get the best care."

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.